Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Important stretch for Eagles begins

Hobbs' Andrew Barrientes defends against El Paso Bowie earlier this season.
  I know the Hobbs boys basketball team’s schedule said the season began in mid-November, but the Eagles’ season really gets underway at the Hobbs Holiday Tournament when they take on Dumas 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at Tasker Arena.
  Every year the Holiday Tournament is the kick start to a final nine-week stretch that will determine the fate of the Eagles’ season and it won’t be any different this year.
  While Hobbs is off to a 7-3 start and the first 10 games has helped the Eagles find themselves under first-year coach Mike Smith, they still have plenty to prove.
  With only one game under its belt against a New Mexico opponent (beating Oñate at home on Dec. 17), Hobbs’ playoff resume is still slim as it hasn’t defeated a team with a record over .500 on the season.
  But Hobbs has a chance to bolster it with 10 of its next 15 games against New Mexico opponents (and possibly 11 if the Eagles face Volcano Vista during the Holiday Tournament this week).
  Those 10 (or 11) games will tell the story of this season’s team as Hobbs faces ranked 5A teams No. 2 Las Cruces High (in Las Cruces) and No. 4 Clovis (at least twice) as well as ranked Class 4A squads No. 1 Goddard and No. 6 Roswell High. Add to it important non-district matchups against Rio Rancho and Alamogordo, and the Eagles will be tested.
  It’s tough to say what this Hobbs team is after 10 games. In its seven victories, Hobbs has won by an average of 21.4 points and all but one of those victories have been by double digits meaning the Eagles are taking care of business against teams their supposed to beat.
  On the other hand, in the Eagles’ three losses (to Faith Christian, El Paso Bowie and Odessa Permian), Hobbs has lost by an average of 26.7 points – losing each game by more than 20. The one consistent factor in all these losses is each team used strong guard play to beat the Eagles’ press and get easy baskets (though two of those losses came in the four games second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Dane Pannell was out due to injury).
  The identity of this season’s Hobbs team is easy to point out. The Eagles are hard-working and gritty, which makes up for their lack of size (more accurately, their rebounding) and depth.
  But toughness and grit can only make up for so much. Hobbs is going to need other players to step up and join the consistent play of Aaron Ibarra (having a breakout season averaging 23 points per game), Austin Montoya, Andrew Barrientes, Jesus Rodriguez and Pannell if it wants to be a contender for a state title.
  The opportunity to step up and help take the Eagles to the next level starts Wednesday.

(Note: This column appears in Sunday's edition of the Hobbs News-Sun. To subscribe to the print or online version of the paper to get complete Lea County sports coverage of Hobbs, Lovington, Eunice, Jal and Tatum, call 575-393-2123.)